Most Arsenal fans will be hoping for three points against Burnley to help maintain their side’s Barclays Premier League title challenge at The Emirates tomorrow, but for two cycling Gooners the real goal will be to arrive at the North London stadium before a pair of Claret fans who have challenged them to a 250-mile tandem race to the match.
Arsenal supporters Garreth Ellidge and Jimmy Capstick, who both hail from Burnley, had planned to ride to the match to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, which is the London club’s chosen charity this season.
When their friends and Burnley fans Dominic Marquis and Peter Baker heard of their idea, they threw down the gauntlet to make a race of it, and both pairs of fans set off at 8am yesterday morning from Burnley’s Turf Moor ground to head for the capital via Manchester, Stoke, Tamworth and Milton Keynes to hopefully arrive in time for tomorrow’s 3pm kick-off.
Ahead of yesterday’s departure, Peter admitted to the Lancashire Telegraph: “I’ve never done anything like this before. It will be a real challenge but we are all determined to finish.” He added: “We are hoping to raise at least £2,000 and so far it looks like we could raise a lot more. The pain we will be going through nothing compared to what those children have to endure.”
Peter continued: “The first day will be particularly challenging as we have to cycle 119 miles, we just have to try and pace ourselves so we don’t start flagging after 30 miles,” joking “I think that we will be going for a sprint finish though to beat the other two to the finish line.”
The Burnley fan concluded: "Me and Dominic are really hoping that Burnley will have their first away win of the premiership at the Emirates, that would be fantastic.” His Arsenal-supporting friends may not agree with that sentiment, with a home defeat certainly making the ride home seem a lot longer.
Charity tandem rides do seem to have particular appeal to supporters of the Lancashire team. Earlier this year, we reported on three pairs of Burnley fans, plus one solo rider, planned to travel by tandem to their team’s match at Fulham to raise money in memory of a teenage supporter of the team who had died from cancer.
You can sponsor the tandem-racing football fans by visiting Garreth’s page on the charity website Just Giving.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.